Stock vs Original Photos: Pros, Cons & Insights
Written by  Daisie Team
Published on 7 min read


Whether you're setting up a website, launching an online store, or sprucing up your social media profiles, one thing is for sure — you need quality images. The question is, should you go for stock photos or invest in original ones? The answer isn't as black and white as you might think. There are merits and demerits of using stock photos vs original photos, and in this blog, we'll explore them all to help you make an informed decision. Let's start with understanding what stock photos are.

What are stock photos?

In the simplest terms, stock photos are ready-to-use images that you can buy or sometimes get for free from online databases. They cover a wide array of subjects — from playful puppies to skyscrapers in the city skyline. You name it, a stock photo library probably has it. But what does this mean for you?

  • Convenience: With stock photos, you don't need to arrange a photoshoot or wait for the perfect lighting. You can just pick an image that fits your need and use it right away.
  • Range: Stock photo libraries offer a wide variety of images. You can find pictures of people, places, things, and even abstract concepts like happiness or teamwork.
  • Cost: While some stock photos can be expensive, many are quite affordable. Some websites even offer free images for you to use.

However, it's not all sunshine and rainbows. There are also some downsides to using stock photos, which we will discuss later. But first, let's get to know what original photos are.

What are original photos?

On the other side of the coin, we have original photos. These are pictures that you or a hired professional photographer take specifically for your project. Unlike stock photos, they're tailored to your exact needs and wants. But what are the advantages of going original?

  • Uniqueness: Original photos are just that — original. They offer a level of uniqueness that stock photos can't match. When you use original photos, you're sure your images won't pop up on a random website or a competitor's ad campaign.
  • Brand Identity: Original photos allow you to infuse your brand's personality and values into every shot. This can help foster a stronger connection with your audience and make your brand more memorable.
  • Control: With original photos, you have complete control over every aspect of the image. From the subject and the lighting to the composition and the post-production, it's all in your hands.

However, original photos aren't always the ideal choice. They come with their own set of challenges, which we'll delve into in a later section. But for now, let's turn our attention back to stock photos and discuss their pros and cons in detail.

Pros of Stock Photos

Stock photos are a treasure trove of ready-to-use images at your fingertips. But what really makes them shine? Let's go through the merits of using stock photos.

  • Convenience: Stock photos are readily available, which means you can quickly find and download the images you need. This is great if you're under a tight deadline or if you don't have the resources to organize a photo shoot.
  • Variety: The selection of stock photos is staggering. Whether you're looking for a specific concept, location, or theme, chances are there's a stock photo that fits the bill. This vast variety can be a real game-changer when you're trying to illustrate a specific point or evoke a particular mood.
  • Cost-effective: Compared to the cost of hiring a professional photographer, stock photos can be a much more economical option, especially for small businesses or startups on a tight budget.

These are just a few of the benefits of using stock photos. They can be a valuable tool in your content creation arsenal. But like any tool, they have their downsides too, which we'll explore in the next section.

Cons of Stock Photos

While the benefits of stock photos are clear, they also come with their own set of drawbacks. Let's discuss the demerits of using stock photos.

  • Non-unique: Stock photos are available to anyone who wants to purchase them. This means the same image you chose could be appearing on numerous other websites or materials, making your content less unique.
  • Generic Feel: Stock photos can sometimes lack the authenticity or personal touch that original photos can provide. They might not fully convey the specific message or emotion you want to get across to your audience.
  • Limited Customization: With stock photos, what you see is what you get. There's little room for customization or alteration to fit your specific needs.

While the convenience and cost-effectiveness of stock photos can be appealing, these drawbacks might make you think twice about using them. But remember, every picture tells a story, and sometimes, a stock photo might be exactly what your story needs. It all depends on your specific situation and needs.

Pros of Original Photos

Original photos, on the other hand, come with a unique set of benefits. Let's dive into the merits of using original photos.

  • Uniqueness: Original photos are just that - original. They're unique to you and your brand, which can make your content stand out from the crowd. There's no chance someone else is using the same image, because it's yours!
  • Personalization: With original photos, you're in control. You can capture the exact mood, message, or idea you want to convey. This personal touch can make a big difference in how your audience connects with your content.
  • Full Control: From the concept to the final edit, you're in charge of every aspect of your original photos. You can customize every detail to perfectly fit your needs.

As you can see, original photos offer a level of control and uniqueness that stock photos simply can't match. But, remember, that doesn't mean they're always the best choice. The right choice depends on your specific needs, resources, and goals. Sometimes, a mix of both stock and original photos can provide the best of both worlds.

Cons of Original Photos

While original photos have their perks, they also come with a few challenges. Here are some of the demerits of using original photos:

  • Time and Effort: Taking and editing your own photos can be time-consuming. It involves planning, shooting, and post-production work. If you're on a tight schedule, this could be a significant drawback.
  • Cost: Original photos often require an investment in equipment and possibly a professional photographer. While your smartphone camera may suffice for some shots, for high-quality images, you might need to invest in a good DSLR or mirrorless camera.
  • Skill Requirement: Good photography isn't just about pointing and shooting. It requires an understanding of lighting, composition, and editing. If you or your team lack these skills, the quality of your original photos might suffer.

These challenges mean that original photos aren't always the best choice for everyone. You need to weigh the merits and demerits of using stock photos vs original photos to decide what's best for your specific situation.

Insights into Stock Photos

Understanding the pros and cons of stock photos is one thing, but to truly appreciate their value, we need to dig a little deeper. Here are some insights into stock photos that can help you make the most of them:

  • Variety: Stock photos offer a vast range of images across multiple categories. Whether you're looking for an image of a business meeting, a tropical beach, or a plate of spaghetti, there's likely a stock photo that fits the bill.
  • Instant Availability: Need a photo right now? With stock photos, you can have it. There's no need to wait for a photoshoot or editing process. You can download and use the image immediately.
  • Professional Quality: Stock photos are usually shot by professionals and are available in high-resolution formats. This means they can be used for both digital and print media.
  • Legal Safety: When you purchase a stock photo, you also buy a license to use that image legally. This can offer peace of mind, especially for businesses who want to avoid copyright issues.

Weighing these insights against the demerits of using stock photos can give you a clear picture of whether they're the right choice for your needs. It's all about understanding your specific requirements and aligning them with the benefits and limitations of each option.

Insights into Original Photos

Original photos can offer a unique perspective and authenticity that's hard to find in stock photos. Let's delve into some insights that can help you understand the merits and demerits of using original photos:

  • Originality: The biggest upside of original photos is, well, their originality. They offer unique content that no one else has, giving your website or project a distinctive look and feel.
  • Control: When you're using original photos, you have total control over every aspect of the image. From the subject matter to the lighting and composition, the final result is completely in your hands.
  • Branding: Original photos can be customized to align with your brand identity. Whether it's the color scheme, the style, or the message, your photos can be tailored to resonate with your brand.
  • Exclusivity: An original photo is yours and yours alone. This exclusivity can make your content stand out and ensure your images won’t show up on a competitor's site.

Knowing these insights, it's easier to see why people might choose original photos over stock ones. However, it's equally important to remember that original photos come with their own set of challenges. Which one is right for you will depend on your specific needs, resources, and goals.

If you're interested in understanding more about the differences between stock photos and original photos, you may find Romina Introini's workshop, 'Editorial vs Street Style Photography,' relevant to your interests. This workshop will give you insights into the thought process and techniques behind different photography styles, which can help you make more informed decisions when choosing between stock and original photos for your projects.